Before filling out the March Madness brackets, the conference tournaments have to get underway. There may not be any conference in college basketball that is as talented as the Big East. When championship week gets underway, the Big East tournament will take center stage.
The Big East has the potential to send 11 teams to the NCAA tournament, and many of those teams have a chance to win the national championship.
The Big East tournament will provide plenty of excitement and close games.
Here is a look at the field for the Big East tournament to include favorites, contenders and underdogs.
The Big East is up for grabs this year, and any team could surprise and go deep into the tournament.
West Virginia won the tournament a year ago, but it was interesting to note that the team they played was Georgetown, who was an eight seed in the tournament. In fact, the finals did not include the top two seeds in the tournament, which is a sign of how competitive this tournament has become.
Before predicting a winner, it is important to review the teams in the field.
In 2011, the Pitt Panthers were the best team in the Big East and grabbed the No. 1 seed in the tournament. They finished the season off with a double digit win against the Villanova Wildcats and have the best chance to win this tournament as well as an outside shot of winning the National Championship.
The Panthers have hovered in the top of the college basketball rankings all season long. The Panthers almost blew a big lead in the conference to the upstart Fighting Irish but held off to clinch the title.
Ashton Gibbs returned from injury to fuel this team to a title run, and with a deep roster and strong coaching, the Panthers have a realistic chance to win this tournament. The Odds for the Panthers to win the Big East Tournament are not surprising.
The Panthers are not the only favorite in this tournament.
The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame may be one of the hottest teams in the Big East. They ended the season with a very impressive road victory over the UConn Huskies as they end the season on a four-game winning streak. Notre Dame has won 10 out of 11 to end the season to include six straight wins over a ranked opponent.
Here are the odds for Notre Dame to win the Big East tournament.
Ben Hansbrough is the player to watch for the Irish and has the skills to bring home a Big East title to South Bend.
The Irish have the most conference wins in school history, and with a double bye, they could make some noise in this tournament.
The Cardinals have an offensive powerhouse for a team and could stun anyone in this talented field, but one would have to wonder what kind of mindset the team has entering the tournament.
There was nothing on the line Sunday as the Cardinals had already clinched the No. 3 seed in the conference, but they lost in painful fashion. Preston Knowles committed a mindless foul with seconds on the clock to give the Mountaineers the victory. Here are the odds for Louisville to win the Big East tournament.
Rick Pitino is one of the best coaches in the game, and he held a meeting with the players after the game to renew their focus on the upcoming tournament. It will be interesting to see how they respond to the loss in the tournament.
Syracuse is the last team in the Big East to secure the double bye as the tournament approaches.
Although they were up against one of the worst teams in the conference in DePaul, the Orange ended the season with an offensive outburst scoring 107 points on the afternoon. The odds on Syracuse to win the Big East tournament are higher than imagined.
Syracuse has four players that average in double digits in scoring led by Kris Joseph at 14.3. Combined with defensive tenacity, the Orange is a threat to go deep in the tournament.
The St. John’s Red Storm may be the most interesting team in the entire tournament.
They are the true Cinderella of this conference and have a team filled with seniors that could easily win this tournament.
The tournament is being played in Madison Square Garden giving St. John’s a home-field edge. They enter this tournament with one of the most impressive résumé’s in the country. The odds are surprisingly high for the Red Storm.
They have taken down top-ranked teams and have a true Big East player of the year candidate in Dwight Hardy. With a home court and an experienced squad yearning to win, the Red Storm are true contenders in this tournament.
West Virginia had a miracle comeback against Louisville to get a bye headed into this tournament. The Mountaineers beat a ranked team for the fifth time this season and have some big bodies down low, which give them a significant rebounding presence.
Casey Mitchell leads the team in scoring per game, but they have a variety of players that can step up and contribute on both ends of the floor.
This team is well-coached and filled with experienced players; they will need a few bounces to go their way, but they have a shot.
If not for the great run by St. John’s, the Bearcats may be the best story in the Big East of 2011. They finished with a winning record in the conference and swept Georgetown along the way.
The Bearcats have athletes on the floor like Cashmere Wright and Yancy Gates that have shown they could be a tough out in this tournament. The Bearcats will not win this tournament, but they may provide an upset along the way.
As long as the Georgetown Hoyas don’t run into Cincinnati, they could have a good run in the tournament.
In the last outing of the regular season, they lost to the Bearcats for the second time this season, yet they will still be awarded with a bye headed into the tournament.
It may not matter because Georgetown is in trouble. They enter the tournament without senior point guard Chris Wright who is trying to recover in time for the tournament after suffering a broken foot.
They have lost three straight coming into the tournament and four out of their last five. While they have some talent on the team, they don’t have a shot of winning this tournament.
Teams like Georgetown are primed for an upset leaving the door open for a few long shot teams in the conference.
Wow, how far have the Huskies fallen? At the start of the year, the Huskies were one of the few teams that were selected to vie for the conference title, yet now they won’t even be awarded a bye in the tournament.
Surrounded by off-the-court allegations and suspensions, the Huskies have struggled through 2011. Kemba Walker is the shining star of this team and has the potential to carry the Huskies through the tournament, but it could be a very tall order. Walker will need some help if the Huskies need to advance in this tournament.
The collapse at the end of the season for the Wildcats is monumental.
After a 16-1 run to start the season, the Wildcats have flat out broke down as the season ended. They have lost four straight to end the season and have lost nine of the last 14 games.
Corey Fisher is doing his best to carry the load but is limited without help.
The Cats are 2-6 in the last eight games against ranked opponents and will have a tough time making any noise in this tournament.
While it’s easy to make a case for many of the front runners in the Big East, the winner of this tournament will be the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Ben Hansbrough is the star on this team, but in the latest contest against UConn, Notre Dame proved they can win without him. They are deep and have sharp shooters that can nail the trey and big bodies that can work the boards.
They have impressive road wins against Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin, showcasing their ability to win on the road, and they are one of the hotter teams in the Big East.
Riding the hot hand is the way to go in this tournament.
2011 Big East Champions: Notre Dame
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Matt Regaw is a B/R Featured Columnist and the founder of BookieBlitz.com, your one-stop shop for sports articles, previews and predictions. Feel free to contact Matt at email@example.com.